chapter  3
The Murderer and His Victim: Tracing a Lost Convict of the Botany Bay Decision
ByEmma Christopher
Pages 16

There have been long and sometimes acrimonious debates over why Britain

decided in the late 1780s that it would begin sending its convicts to the faraway

land that would become known as Australia. Some historians have argued that

Australia was first and foremost a ‘dumping ground’ for Britain’s unwanted

criminals, chosen only after other options*mostly African locations*had proved untenable. Others have seen the settlement of the colony at New South

Wales as being primarily for strategic reasons, part of Britain’s imperial

aspirations (Martin). The twists and turns of the Botany Bay Decision are reasonably well known.

There was the decision to establish hulks to put male convicts to hard work on the

River Thames, then a resolution to enrol more into the armed forces. Of this

latter group, some ended up in Africa, the first to be sent there. Following that

was the transportation of convicts to Africa aboard Den Keyser, then two

disastrous voyages which attempted to re-start transportation to America but

ended up in the Honduras Bay Settlement and the Mosquito Shore. Back in Africa,

another 22 convicts were delivered from the Recovery, and two penal colonies

proposed*one at Lemane Island in the Gambia River, the other at ‘Das Voltas’ at the mouth of the Orange River in South-West Africa*but both plans proved unworkable. Beyond that, the Government’s attentions turned to the land seen

years earlier by Captain James Cook, and so a whole new settlement, over twelve

thousand miles from Britain, was established (Christopher; Oldham).